There are some in the Orthodox Tradition who have said that married couples should abstain from sexual relations during lenten periods. Some have gone so far as to say that this is the teaching of the Church. I am not an expert on such things, so I will not venture an opinion on whether or not it is the teaching of the Church or whether or not it is merely pious opinion. However, since someone has asked me about it, I will share some of my thoughts about it.
I have a question for you: What does Elder Thaddeus mean by “lest the devil deceive them” in the quote below.
Abstinence is for everyone, not just for monks. Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only the satisfaction of bodily passions will not be justified. They will answer before God for not having been abstinent. Of course, as the Apostle says, they are not to abstain from each other for a long time, lest the devil deceive them, but they should abstain according to mutual consent (cf. I Cor. 7:1-6). Married people should abstain from corporeal relations during fasts and on great Feast days.+ Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica
I don’t know what Elder Thaddeus means by “lest the devil deceive them”. It’s a quotation from 1 Cor. 7:5. Certainly in the text of 1 Corinthians it could refer to either (or both) their lack of self control in not abstaining, or in not coming together again. However, the force of the text would suggest the latter. Verses three and four stress that a married man and woman have a (sexual) duty to each other. It is also significant to note that in the sentence, “do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer”, the phrase “except perhaps by agreement” is a conditional structure in Greek, which means that it is a possibility, not something that would always or necessarily happen.
A closer look at Elder Thaddeus’ words, brings several considerations to mind. First, as St. Isaac the Syrian says, it’s important to get advice from someone whose manner of life is similar to your own. Just as it would be somewhat strange for a hermit to ask a mother (no matter how holy she is) for advice about aspects of the monastic life she has never experienced, it is similarly strange for a married person to be asking monks for advice about an aspect of life they themselves have not experienced. That doesn’t mean that a holy person cannot give a holy opinion, but one has to keep in mind that it is an opinion about something he or she knows nothing about directly. Additionally, the sayings of the holy fathers are replete with warnings against giving advice about something you have no actual experience in.
Second, certainly there are times when a married couple may abstain for the sake of prayer, but as the scripture (and Elder Thaddeus) says, it must be by mutual agreement. Mutual agreement does not mean that one person makes the other feel guilty or dirty or sinful because he or she doesn’t want to abstain as much as the other—especially for prayer. Here, the weaker brother law applies. Just as monks would eat whatever is served them without asking questions so as not to offend their host, so a married person must serve his or her spouse. I am speaking here in regard to abstinence for prayer, not in terms of each person’s physical and psychological rhythms and their “natural” or regular patterns or “needs” which will change throughout their lifetime and according to a myriad of circumstances. These have to be worked out in love, self sacrifice and mutual care between the couple.
Which brings me to the third and perhaps most important issue. There are many different pathways to holiness. Further, there are many different life situations people find themselves in. How any abstinence or ascetical practice might be applied in any given situation can vary greatly. In some marriages, where the relationship is strong and the sexual life is regular and mutually satisfying (forgive me for being explicit, but the topic requires it), then periods of abstinence by mutual agreement are not harmful (if indeed they are for prayer, and not merely because it is lent. There is a huge difference here. To fast without praying is very close to hypocrisy). However, many couples struggle in their relationship so that just maintaining regularity and affection is itself an ascetical discipline. Consider the example of a person who struggles with anorexia or bulimia or some similar eating disorder. Every day for this person is an ascetical struggle with food. Just to eat a normal healthy diet with regular meals and regular portions is already a huge ascetical struggle. Similarly, each married couple has to find what works for them, what actually promotes prayer and peace in their relationship, what actually helps them draw near to God.
Personally, I am uncomfortable with blanket statements about when married couples should or should not abstain from sexual relations. There are so many factors involved—it’s not like simply choosing a salad instead of a hamburger. Perhaps for a monk, even a very holy monk, who has never been married, it is possible to image that abstaining from sex in marriage is not much different than abstaining from oil and wine at supper; however, those who are married know it’s not the same. Just look at the way Elder Thaddeus words it: “ Husbands and wives for whom marriage means only the satisfaction of bodily passions will not be justified.” I have known a few young couples who seem to have gotten married “only [for the] satisfaction of bodily passions,” but those marriages either fail quickly, or they learn quickly that there is much, much more to marriage than satisfaction of bodily passions. For a monk, perhaps, marriage may seem to be mostly about satisfying passions, but anyone who has experienced a healthy marriage knows that sex in marriage is about so much more than just bodily passions—just like eating food is about so much more than just satisfying gluttony. In fact, good, healthy sex in marriage requires a great deal of self control. Still, there may be times when abstinence from sexual relations may help us in pursuit of prayer, and if the couple agree on a period of abstinence (and the agreement is genuinely mutual and it doesn’t harm the relationship), then by all means they may abstain. However, they must come together again, “lest the devil deceive them.”
What wonderful timely wisdom, Father! It certainly has the ring of truth (and spiritual sanity) to me. Thank you.
Wonderful advice on this subject, Father! Many thanks and blessings to you.
I don’t know what Elder Thaddeus means by “lest the devil deceive them”.
My parish Father pointed out last night at service that to fast without prayer is demonic. As he stated, demons do not eat (they fast all the time), but neither do they pray. Thus to join in their fasting is to be deceived by the devil. This may be what was meant by Elder Thaddeus.
Can it really be said that demons “fast” if they aren’t designed to eat in the first place?
I guess it depends on how one defines ‘fasting.’
This idea is also contained in the Lenten Triodion in during Matins on the Wednesday of Cheese Fare:
In vain do you rejoice in not eating, my soul!
You abstain from food, but are not purified from passions!
If you have no desire for improvement,
You will be despised as a lie in the eyes of God!
You will be compared to evil demons, who never eat!
If you continue in sin, you will perform a useless fast
Also, from Amma Theodora:
Amma Theodora said that neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of
suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that. There was an
anchorite who was able to banish the demons; and he asked them, “What makes
you go away? Is it fasting?” They replied, “We do not eat or drink.” “Is
it vigils?” They replied, “We do not sleep.” “Is it separation from the
world?” “We live in the deserts.” “Then what power sends you away?” They said,
“Nothing can overcome us, but only humility.” Amma Theodora concluded by
saying, “Do you see how humility is victorious over the demons?
Neither of those quotes quite comes out and says that demons “fast”, per se. They sound more akin to that line in James about how the demons believe in one God too — and tremble. Which is to say, they remind us that certain things on their own (belief in one God, fasting, etc.) aren’t sufficient, and we shouldn’t be too proud (or even proud at all) about those things.
The point I was making earlier is that “fasting” means abstaining from something — and since the demons never do those things in the first place, there is nothing for them to abstain from. (It’s kind of like how I sometimes wonder what vegans do for Lent, given that they don’t consume any animal products in the first place: is Lent really a “fast” for them? It’s not like they were going to eat meat or fish or eggs or dairy anyway.)
(Okay, there’s wine. Now imagine that these people are vegan teetotalers. I myself have never liked the taste of alcohol, so abstaining from wine takes no effort for me. In fact, it used to take effort to receive communion in churches that used wine instead of grape juice. So I would never say that I am “fasting” from wine, because I never drink the stuff to begin with.)
I think your point on focusing on only one aspect of one’s faith to the exclusion of other aspects is a good one. Drawing near to God is never really about only one thing in isolation.
But as to demons fasting, I think the point is that much of what we associate with virtue is not virtuous at all (and could perhaps even be demonic) if it is not directed properly. That is, if it is not producing the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Much of the Church’s spiritual writing speaks of how common and easy it is to be deceived when you appear or feel yourself to be virtuous.
This is, I believe, correct. I did not mean to begin a discussion on the nature of demons, forgive me for that! Father was simply pointing out that anything we do that is not directed towards God is essentially demonic and deceiving.
I’ve been vegan half my life, so I often hear comments about how Lent must be nothing for me. It’s probably easier for me to come up with meal ideas, but other than that there is still a struggle. I don’t really want to share my fasting rule publicly, but there is definitely a difference during Lent and I could talk to you about it privately if you’re really, really sincerely curious. But I think that’s an odd way for people to look at it. You wouldn’t say “Oh well, I already [give alms/visit the sick/feed the poor, etc] throughout the year, so I guess I don’t have to do anything more for Lent”, right? I mean, if you’re trying to grow spiritually, you’ll increase what you’re doing in some way or another. There’s always something more we can do.
I’ve also noticed the changes I make during Lent sometimes end up sticking (that’s actually how I went vegan), and I wouldn’t want to Not transform my life during Lent thinking if I make this change a permanent one, Lent will just be a breeze for me. I dunno, I can’t speak for all vegans everywhere, but I would hope if someone wants to be vegan year-round that would mean they put greater effort into the Lenten struggle to keep it meaningful, and so they can fully break the fast and celebrate Pascha.
I certainly didn’t mean to imply that Lent doesn’t make *any* sort of difference to vegans (or teetotalers, or celibates, etc.). I’m simply/primarily looking at the question of whether it’s possible to “fast” from something that a person (or demon, or whatever) was never partaking of in the first place.
Re: the idea that “anything we do that is not directed towards God is essentially demonic and deceiving.”
I regret to say that this reminds me of something a Christian teenager said on a Canadian TV show back in the 1980s, regarding the difference between Christian rock’n’roll and the secular stuff: basically, she said, even Lionel Richie was serving the Devil because he wasn’t praising God with his music.
I’m sure — or at least I hope — that that is not the sort of thing that your priest meant. But that’s how the rhetoric sounds to these ears.
Katherine, I’ve vegans in my family. And oh yes, they–like you–feel the fast! But who would know it, unless they lived and shared a kitchen with them. At coffee hour at church, if they have to eat something, they simply eat what’s offered, rather than draw attention to their fast. This happened ths past weekend at Pan-Orthodox Vespers as well. And since they don’t talk about their fast with others who too are fasting, who, on the outside, would know? And why would they, since we are each to look at own plates only and not publicise our fasts? No two people are alike, are they? Thus, of necessity, our struggles cannot be alike. But though our struggles are not the same, we each have struggles. And through them, God saves us. For some of us food is a huge temptation, for others talking too much, or being pluggled into various media, or sleeping too much… is. May God give each of us the grace to struggle with our passions. Not only do different passions dominate different people but often different passions dominate the same individual at different stages of our lives.
Re. Sts Joachim & Anna…, were they sexually active into old age for the sake of it or any other reason but to be joined sexually for the purpose of conceiving the child they so longed and prayed for? I had thought the latter, though I could of course be wrong. To be sure, there are older people who are sexually active, which more often than not comes as a surprise to younguns. But I didn’t think we knew that of the saints in question. I always thought they were actively trying to have a child.
I guess I kind of wonder what exactly the difference is. I know in Hinduism they teach that the physical can be separated from the emotional, but that does not seem to be an incarnational, Orthodox Christian way of thinking about anything.
Fr Michael, there is a big difference between joining sexually to have a child that a childless married couple want, long, and pray for and having sex for any other reason, which is not to say the latter is wrong. John Sanidopoulos’ article mentioned in this thread too brings up sexual union for the purpose of having children.
Not knowing much about it, I can’t speak for Hinduism, but the Lord is the Incarnation of God. And He was (and is and will ever be) physical without being sexually active. Thus, physical does not necessarily have to be sexual as well, though it commonly is and no one’s saying anything’s wrong with it, when expressed within marriage, as God ordained.
As for the physical and the emotional, there is no need to separate it, not even for a monastic. The nuns I know are very warm and loving, and I see no separation between physical and emotional in them. I feel their love and their loving touch, embrace. It is, however, in no way sexual.
In the hereafter, we will have bodies and souls and will be both physical and emotional as well as spiritual, but we shall not be sexual. Not being Muslims, the perfect life of divine joy that we anticipate, where we shall be in a far purer state of communion with God as well as those in communion with Him in Heaven, will be a state of going from glory to glory, where we shall experience a true, deep, and intimate love that is not sexual. We shall know one another in a new, different, glorious way. Or so I think, though I could be wrong of course.
I agree completely that marital sexual activity is not necessary for a fully human life—no argument there. My contention has to do with your first point: “There is a big difference between joining sexually to have a child…and having sex for any other reason.” My contention is that all of the reasons for having sex in a healthy marriage, in my experience, cannot be separated. Certainly, there is impersonal, passion-driven sex in which the parter is just that: merely a partner, a tool for my own sexual gratification. But even then, in God’s economy (and before the age of modern birth control) even such broken sex could not be separated from child bearing. I think that we can all agree that such an impersonal, selfish sexual motivation is broken. However, in marriage there can also be sexual attraction that is personal and other-focused. (To paraphrase St. Paul, the man’s body belongs to the wife, the wife’s body to the husband.) What I mean is that I can’t imagine a healthy marriage in which sexual activity would ever be experienced as something just to get pregnant. There are so many appropriate, God-given feelings, emotions and relational benefits tied up in that experience, that it seems ridiculous to me to speak of a sexually active married couple (again, assuming a healthy marriage) only coming together to have children. There is no ‘only’. It’s all connected. This is what I mean by saying that trying to separate out one aspect of the sexual experience (just for A or just for B) is anti-incarnational, and not at all Orthodox. A corollary of this is that it seems to me to be both wrong and dangerous to speak of sexual activity in marriage as something that is a concession for the weak—as though the goal for the spiritually mature couple were a sexless marriage. Part of this sexless-marriage-as-godliness argument includes the caveat that sex motivated ‘only’ by the desire to have children is acceptable. But in my experience, the various aspects of sexual activity in healthy marriage cannot be separated.
And to be clear, I am sure there are very healthy sexless marriages. I’m not saying that’s not possible or even common—but it is not something people talk about much, unless there is a problem. Especially as one gets older, or if health issues develop, or other possible reasons, a couple may just let that part of their life “fall asleep” (as a monk friend of mine put it). And certainly there may be seasons of abstinence, by mutual agreement for prayer, as St. Paul says. However, my concern is the confusion and marital difficulties caused some married couples who can’t shake feelings of guilt because it was planted in their head at some point that sex in marriage is ‘just’ a concession to the flesh rather than a revelation of the heavenly love of the Bridegroom for His Bride, the Church.
I regret to say that this reminds me of something a Christian teenager said on a Canadian TV show back in the 1980s, regarding the difference between Christian rock’n’roll and the secular stuff: basically, she said, even Lionel Richie was serving the Devil because he wasn’t praising God with his music.
No I would definitely not state that; please forgive me!
Fr Michael, I agree of course that when a married couple joins sexually in the hope of having a child, there are many blessed, God-given emotions, bonding, and relational benefits and that they cannot be separated. In other words, it’s by no means a mechanical act.
My only point was that we have no evidence that the saints you mentioned continued to have sex after they were blessed with the child, for whom they so longed. I also don’t believe such a cessation results in a lessening of the deep and strong loving bond between them.
Well, actually, in the case of Abraham, there is evidence of a sort. After the death of Sarah, Abraham remarried and sired several more children (Gen. 25: 1-2).
You say “I also don’t believe a cessation results…” However, I would have to say rather “cessation would result” because to argue “that we have no evidence that the saints you mentioned continued to have sex after they were blessed with the child…” is an argument from silence (certainly in the case of Sts. Joachim and Anna, and Zechariah and Elizabeth we have so little data—except the promised child, which the texts are interested in). But really, what would such evidence look like for any marriage for a couple past the child-bearing years? The one child they had was miraculous—and is our only evidence that they were having sexual relations even into old age (and again, certainly with the prayerful hope of a child). But apart from another miracle, there would be no evidence (one way or another) of this aspect of their relationship continuing or not continuing—except in the case of St. Abraham who remarried a younger woman after Sarah’s death.
But having said that, I do agree with you completely that a cessation of sexual relations does not necessarily lessen the deep and strong bond between a husband and wife. And were I to speculate, I imagine at their age that it is certainly likely that Sts. Joachim and Anna, and Zechariah and Elizabeth did not continue having sexual relations after the birth of their child because they were very old, worn out and tired. Not everyone can have the stamina of Abraham. But whether they did or didn’t continue to come together sexually afterward is not an essential indicator of their holiness. And That is my whole point.
Thank you for this. Maintaining intimacy in our marriage is already difficult because of work travel demands and very mismatched libido. My love language is primarily physical touch so naturally sex and physical closeness translates to emotional closeness and bond, for me. Not so for him. Feeling ignored in this area has led to serious marital difficulties which we are working through, without an addition burden.
Fr. John Behr had some wonderful commentary along these lines. It can be found in his 3rd talk here: http://orthodoxsalem.com/becoming-human-fr-john-behr/
I listened to Fr. John’s talk: It’s great! Thanks for the link.
St. Augustine actually goes as far as to ascribe virtue to a spouse who condescends from abstinence for the weaker spouse. In his system, it is virtuous to abstain; but it is more virtuous to condescend to another’s weakness. I think this matches well the moral vision of St. Paul.
Forgive me Father, but I am a bit concerned about a couple of points in your piece.
While I agree that the application of a spiritual discipline is never really meant to be one size fits all thing, I’m a bit disappointed to not see a reference to one’s spiritual father/priest. Instead you say “Similarly, each married couple has to find what works for them, what actually promotes prayer and peace in their relationship, what actually helps them draw near to God.” I play competitive wheelchair tennis, and when I seek to improve my game, I don’t just figure out what I want to do based on what I seek is best, but rather, I go to a pro. Interestingly, two of the pros I work with have never been in a wheelchair yet they provide tremendous insight into my game. Perhaps I’m picking at nits on this one, but there you go.
The second is the point about Elder Thaddeus. I understand the holiness to reflect the degree to which one had advanced along the road to theosis. Thus, I would expect a holy monk to have a better grasp of the mind of God than I would. I also suspect that the Father’s warnings about taking advice only from those experienced to likely be more nuanced. If we take such advice at face value, we would then ignore St. Paul’s and St. Chrysostomos discussions of marriage, and somehow that doesn’t strike me as wise.
You are right, I did not specifically mention seeking the advice of one’s spiritual father or priest. In the larger e-mail discussion of which this blog post is a part, I do mention it. Thank you for bringing this to my attention. In an Orthodox context it is always good to say specifically that advice from one’s spiritual father/mother [my first spiritual father was an abbess] is an essential piece of the discernment process.
Regarding the advice of monastics on the sex life of a married couple, certainly (as I say in the post) the holy opinion of a holy person is very valuable and should not be ignored, but one must keep in mind that whether or not this holy person has actual experience in the matter he is speaking about must also be taken into account as one discerns how that advice should/could/might be applied in one’s life. Just because a holy person says something, doesn’t mean he or she actually understands what kinds of problems literal observance of his/her words might cause or how certain assumptions the holy person makes may or may not reflect the actual lived reality of another. In my own pastoral practice, I have seen the shipwreck caused in people’s life who tried to obey the word of an “elder” who A) leads a very different way of life from the way of life of the person he is advising and B) who actually knew almost nothing about the person he was advising. I was an athlete too (in college), a long-distance runner (5K, 10K and 3K steeplechase). Unfortunately, the track and field coach at my university had actual experience only in sprints and huddles. Some of his advice, we distance guys just had to ignore. He was a good coach. He read books on long-distance running, and some of what he said was really helpful. But part of what made him a good coach was that he realized that he didn’t know exactly what he was talking about, and that the distance runners had to look to other distance runners for much of their advice. A good track and field coach, like a good spiritual father (in my opinion) must know his limits and listen much more than he speaks.
The clause, “I would expect a holy monk to have better grasp of the mind of God,” concerns me if by it you mean that a holy person would be more likely to know exactly what God wants another person to do. Perhaps, in certain monastic settings that may be the case (but, at least according to St. Ignatius Brianchaninov, that does not happen nowadays [at least not in 19th century Russia); and, yes, as a spiritual gift, that sort of thing does happen occasionally——but not only with very holy people. But generally, a holy person helps the other learn how to hear, learn how to discern——not hear or discern instead of the other.
John Sanidopoulos has just posted some of the background to these traditions here: http://www.johnsanidopoulos.com/2016/03/sex-and-great-lent.html
Andrew, I read John’s article and there were a few things about it that concerned me. A smaller point, but not insignificant, is John’s summary of St. Paul’s teaching on sex in marriage. John summarizes it by saying that the couple should not “deprive themselves” of sex except by mutual agreement. But for St. Paul, sex in marriage is never about indulging or depriving oneself, it is about serving the other: The wife’s body belongs to the husband and the husband’s body belongs to the wife. For st. Paul, the ideal for sex in marriage is not abstinence, but serving the other. For St. Paul, abstinence is a concession, for a season. Another small point is that John seems to equate “flesh” with body, but depriving the flesh and depriving the body are not necessarily or always the same thing. The “flesh” is the disordered passions in the body. That a husband and wife have sexual intercourse is not necessarily an expression of satisfying the flesh (a disordered passion). These two small matters influence how John talks about everything and I think skews what he says in unhealthy ways. However, the biggest problem for me with is that John says that abstinence is the ideal and that less than abstinence in marriage is a reflection of one’s “spiritual level.” He likens this to food arguing that total abstinence from food during lent is the ideal, an ideal attained by those at a high “spiritual level,” while those [apparently] at lower spiritual levels eat more. I can’t agree that the ideal in marriage is abstinence. How can that be the case when very holy people like Sts. Joachim and Anna, Sts. Abraham and Sarah and Sts. Zachariah and Elizabeth all, in very old age, are still having sexual relations? I think John makes the common mistake—made by many writers, even some saints and holy people (so I speak as a fool)—that the type of ascetical practice that produces extreme holiness in one mode of life is ideally applicable in all modes of life. Take for example people with health issues. Their asceticism and the crucifixion of their flesh is found in bearing their illness, not in fulfilling a fasting ideal. They can still attain to a “high spiritual level” even though they (in the case of a diabetic) eat dried figs just before the beginning of the Divine Liturgy—so that they don’t faint in the middle of the Liturgy. Or consider different modes of life. God showed St. Anthony the Great that a cobbler living in the city was as holy as he was. Do you think that cobbler fasted as extremely as St. Anthony? No, of course not. Their modes of life were very different, but the possibility of attaining holiness in a one mode of life is not limited by the ideals and patterns of asceticism found in another mode of life. By the way, notice that God had to reveal to St. Anthony that holiness was possible in other modes of life—even St. Anthony the Great would not have known this apart from revelation.
Having said all this, do I think there is a role for sexual abstinence in marriage? Yes, but not because abstinence is the ideal. That, I think, is a dangerous and unhealthy opinion.
Angels are a light for monks, and monks are a light for men. The Elder Thaddeus does nothing but express the timeless wisdom of the Church. Abstinence is the rule during fasts, with mutual consent. Dispensations are given for the weak, but the view of this article wants to make the relaxation the rule. And therefore no humility– not for those who keep the rule (being humble in obedience) and not for those who must have it relaxed by their spiritual fathers (being humble by condemning themselves and acknowledging their weakness).
Meanwhile no less than the great wonderworker of Sarov, Seraphim, told people that it was often lack of self control regarding the marital fast (by profanation of fast days and great feasts with intercourse) that cause children to be born with birth defects. Here of course he is speaking generally.
We should flee the disincarnate intellectualism that has attempt to undermine Tradition here in the West.
Isaac, are you married?
can you show me where monks secluded from the world is prescribed in the Bible or when the practice actually started as a tradition? Paul was not married but he certainly was not a monk nor did he ever say anyone should be a monk in the sense we undertand it today. on the very contrary, he states that one should be IN the world but not OF the world. we are to evangelize while praying incessantly.
In the ancient Christian tradition, monks saw themselves as modelling some of the biblical prophets such as Elijah and John the Baptist, who largely stayed in the wilderness in prayer and preparation until the time came when God called them to speak, either by going to the city or the people coming to them.
As I am sure you know, the gifts of God differ (the hand cannot say to the foot I don’t need you, etc.). Some people are excellent evangelists, others are pastors and teachers, however, some are intercessors (prayer warriors, you might say). These people find that if they want to devote themselves to prayer (six hours or more a day), they need to live a very undistracted lifestyle. These have left the world, in a sense, only to pray for the world.
The very first monks of the Christian era were men and women who moved into the desert largely to flee persecutions, often living in little groups of men or women. Because of the persecutions they took St. Paul’s words, “It’s better not to marry” very seriously.
Many people found this life of celibacy and prayer very helpful in their spiritual growth, and those who lived more evangelistic lives in the world also found great help in the prayers and wisdom of these desert dwelling monks and often visited them.
After the persecutions ceased, the Church quickly became more worldly as large numbers of pagans converted, perhaps more interested in the social benefits of being a Christian than in repentance. It was at this time that there was an explosion of monasticism. Many people who wanted to live serious lives as Christians felt that the best way to do this was to return to the experience of persecution, this time persecuting themselves.
It should be pointed out that most Christian evangelism up until the so called Missionary movement of the European Protestants in the mid 1800s, was done by monks. Some of the most effective missionary activity in Moslem areas have been by monks who simply pray, and by their prayers draw many quietly to Christ.
Well, I hope this begins to answer your question. Obviously there is a lot that could be said. Historically, there have been lots of different kinds of monks, some much more Christ-like than others. But then that could also be said for all Christian groups and callings. Particularly, monasticism in the eastern Christian tradition is much more focused on prayer than the western Christian tradition, which has had orders of monks who were focused on teaching, or evangelism, or caring for the poor or even fighting (warrior monks of the Middle Ages).
This entire statement presumes that sexual intercourse in a Godly marriage is inherently profane. This is not the teaching of the Church.
Thank you for this post! Do you have any posts with regards to clergy couples?
I have not gone there. After 37 years of marriage, I’m still trying to figure it out.
What about the Church perspective of sexual desire and mental disability? mentally disable got sexual desires, how can the Church direct this desires for those people in a path that leads them to a fuller union with God?